Diary Day 2: Strangers
sonder (noun): the realization that, like you, every person you encounter has a complex and colorful life that happens invisibly around you
It’s early in the morning. I’m sitting in a café, sipping on a black coffee and discretely observing a person at the register order their drink. I wonder, is this their first time at this café? Or is this café a part of their usual morning routine? I’m struck by how little I know about the interior lives of this stranger. But I suppose that is exactly what makes them a stranger.
There is so much I don’t know. Very rarely, if ever, can you learn someone’s entire story from a single glance because there is much you don’t see. Where are they from? What work do they do? Are they happy with their work? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their fears? Do they love their family, their friends, their partners? How are they feeling today? Did they recently pass a milestone in their life? What struggles have they endured? What brings them joy?
These are all questions that flood my mind but are left unanswered as our encounter is fleeting. They have lived an entire life with people and experiences unbeknownst to me and will continue to exist without me. I remain only as a passerby in their life and most likely erased from the consolidation of their memory, as they are in and from mine. We’ll inevitably part ways and both continue living our separate existences in which we’ll both encounter more people whose lives we’ll never know.
But, I recognize that, despite never meeting, we are connected. My life is different now because I am no longer the same person I was before glancing up at you. The sonder I feel allows me to suspend my ego and make room for an empathetic connection with a stranger that is irreplaceable as there are no two people identical to us.
I may not know you and you may not know me, but, through the random nature of the universe, our paths were able to find one another. And, whether it was by destiny or by chance, I think that’s pretty special.
- Julia Eunji Choi -